Branco Weiss Fellows and Alumni met for the Symposium and the Lecture 2023
Almost all Branco Weiss Fellows met again this year for the symposium, which took place from November 18 to 21, 2023. During his lifetime, Branco Weiss had decreed that the Fellows should meet in person once a year because he knew how fruitful these encounters would be. In addition to the 41 Fellows assembled, the three members of the Board of Directors, the two administrators and the communications officers were of course also present, as well as two former Fellowship directors, Olaf Kübler and Peter Chen. George Slavich, Director of the Alumni Network, and Suzanne Devkota with her partner Jeff Miller traveled from Los Angeles, and alumni Amar Vutha came from Canada. They were joined by alumni Klaus Eyer (ETH) and Karim Bschir (University of St. Gallen) as well as five emeritus professors from the interview panel.
The defining event of this year’s symposium was the departure of Heidi Wunderli-Allenspach from the Executive Board. Shortly before his death, Branco Weiss had decreed that she would take over the patronage of the Fellowship in his place. Heidi Wunderli-Allenspach steps back from the Fellowship programm (directorate), but will officially remain active for the management of the legacy. Her successor from January 1, 2024, will be Detlef Günther, the long-standing Vice President for Research at ETH, who has long been associated with the Fellowship. There will also be a change in the administration: Sonja Isliker is retiring and will be replaced by Veronika Jakobi on January 1, 2024.
The highlights of this year’s symposium were the presentations by the seven new Fellows, who impressed with the breadth of their fields of activity and the depth of their knowledge. The eighth new Fellow, Patrícia Pečnerová, was unable to attend due to her pregnancy. As in previous years, there was a panel with the outgoing Fellows: Franziska Glassmeier, Nikolay Golubev, Michael Mühlebach, Thomas van Boeckel and Tevong You, which was skillfully and entertainingly moderated by Amar Vutha. Another highlight were the posters of the 2021 Fellows (see photo), which provided an excellent opportunity for dialectical exchange.
The title of this year’s Branco Weiss Lecture was “(Un)predictability.” Being able to predict future events has been a basic human need and a driving force for science for thousands of years. Fellows Matteo Fadel, Vincent Fortuin, Franziska Glassmeier, Michael Mühlebach and Aurore Schwab used examples from their research on clouds and climate, artificial intelligence, the history of religion and the control of mechanical and quantum systems to show what can and cannot be considered predictable. ETH President Joël Mesot, Rector Günther Dissertori and Vice-President Christian Wolfrum addressed the plenary session. Heidi Wunderli-Allenspach chose to end this special evening with a cozy fondue dinner at the Vaudois restaurant Le Dézaley in Zurich’s old town.